IHH CMO Alvin Neo: Brands need more crazy people to stay on innovation curve

L-r: Carl Fremont, Elena Rizova, Alvin Neo and Lynda Wolfe

L-r: Carl Fremont, Elena Rizova, Alvin Neo and Lynda Wolfe

One of Singapore’s most high profile marketers said today that brands needed “more crazy people” if they are to innovate and stay on top of changing consumer trends.

Talking on a panel at the InnovFest Unbound conference in Singapore, Alvin Neo, CMO at private hospital group Integrated Healthcare Holdings, said: “We need people with a crazy sort of energy. You can tell who these people are whenever you meet them. You feel more energised and uneasy, but never unchanged.”

“I find its good to add just a few of these lateral thinking kinds of people to the mix,” said the former Johnson & Johnson and P&G marketer.

When Neo joined IHH just over two years from J&J he said many of his marketing colleagues were more of the “supportive and compliant” profile.

“You need some crazy people to help stir the pot,” he said.

Neo was on a panel moderated by the chief digital officer of MEC Carl Fremont, debating whether brands are innovating fast enough, with J&J VP of external innovation Elena Rizova and Lynda Wolfe, head of consumer and shopper engagement for Mondelez International.

Wolfe said that her company was trying to think “more like a startup”, but how that approach filters throughout the organisation “is a real challenge”.

The snacking giant is taking a twin approach to innovation, using big and smaller partners to learn how to do new things, Wolfe explained.

Mondelez International has global deals with large groups such as Facebook and WeChat, but also works with smaller agency partners such as Ogilvy’s K1nd and  on co-creation projects.

In answer to a question on whether brands were innovating fast enough, Wolfe said: “We’re moving faster, but it’s hard to keep up. Our goal to keep moving forward, with the understanding that it’s a constantly changing landscape. What we’re focusing on now is not the same as it will be in six months time,” she said.


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